The 2010 Toyota Matrix offers a sporty, practical and reasonably priced alternative to either mundane sub-compact cars or bulky crossover SUVs. Released last year as an all-new model, the 2010 Matrix offers more appealing styling, an optional 158-horsepower 2.4-liter engine, crisp steering feel and precise handling. The performance-oriented XRS trim level has returned, as has optional all-wheel drive. As with the previous generation Matrix, there's plenty of room for four adults and the rear seats fold down to create a flat, voluminous cargo area. Main competitors for the Matrix include the new MAZDA3, Chrysler PT Cruiser, Honda Civic and the Matrix' fraternal twins, the Toyota Corolla and the soon-to-be-disappearing Pontiac Vibe, which are all built in the same Canadian factory.
YOU'LL LIKE THIS CAR IF...
Performance-oriented drivers will enjoy the 2010 Toyota Matrix XRS trim level's combination of precise steering feel, sports-tuned suspension and grippy ultra-high-performance all-season tires. Rear seats in all models easily accommodate two adults, or the seats can be folded to provide a large cargo area.
YOU MAY NOT LIKE THIS CAR IF...
The Matrix transmits a surprisingly high amount of road and tire noise into the cockpit. Two of its tire choices – the high-performance and touring all-season tires – seemed noisier than the ultra-high-performance rubber on the XRS.
WHAT'S SIGNIFICANT ABOUT THIS CAR
For 2010, Vehicle Stability Control (VSC) and Traction Control (TRAC) are now standard on all trims.
Each trim level of the 2010 Toyota Matrix has its own significantly different feel and performance. The base model is focused more on economy and functionality than driving excitement. The S trim level, which will be the sales leader, has a slightly more sporty suspension and steering tuning and the 158-horsepower 2.4-liter engine; the handling is responsive and acceleration is decidedly peppy. The XRS is a serious performer with taut, sport-tuned suspension, precise steering and high-performance tires. The electric power steering system allows easy tuning for different levels of steering feel, and also helps performance and fuel economy by dismissing with the traditional engine belt drive and hydraulic pump. Unless you regularly encounter snowy conditions, the 2.4-liter engine does not produce enough power to make the all-wheel-drive option worth the cost and extra weight.
OUR FAVORITE FEATURES
Sport-tuned suspension, excellent steering feel, grippy 18-inch tires and a 158-horsepower engine turn the 2010 Toyota Matrix XRS into a terrific little car for the enthusiast driver on a budget.
Generous Rear Cargo Space
Fold down the rear seats of the 2010 Toyota Matrix and its flat cargo floor can hold a bunch of camping gear, back-to-college supplies or boxes and books for moving day.
Despite its sporty exterior, the 2010 Matrix is an extremely practical sub-compact. The rear seats comfortably accommodate two full-sized adults. There's more than plenty of headroom both front and rear and legroom has been increased. The rear seats fold forward to create a flat cargo floor that will swallow large amounts of gear; however, last year's restyling did cut about two cubic feet from the cargo volume. The front passenger's seat folds flat and can be employed as a computer table or to carry longer cargo. The high front seating position provides excellent visibility, and all trim levels have supportive sport seats.
The original Toyota Matrix reminded some of a miniature minivan or station wagon, which turned off a number of potential buyers. The latest iteration is slightly longer and wider, and Toyota stylists have eliminated the third side window. This styling change significantly expands the C-pillar and wraps the back glass around the sides, delivering a sportier coupe-like appearance. The XRS gets even more aggressive styling, including a front underbody spoiler, a rear roof spoiler and 18-inch aluminum wheels.
NOTABLE STANDARD EQUIPMENT
The 2010 Toyota Matrix comes in three trim levels: Base, S and the sporty XRS. All have four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes, traction and stability control and front, front-side and full-length side-curtain airbags. The base model has a 132-horsepower 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine, while the S and XRS have a 158-horsepower, 2.4-liter version. The base and S versions have 16-inch steel wheels, the XRS has 18-inch aluminum rims and XRS and S versions have larger front and rear disc brakes. Other standard equipment includes Lexus-style Optitron gauges, an auxiliary input jack and a tilt and telescoping steering wheel. The S and XRS have a 115-volt AC outlet that accepts three-prong plugs.
Available on the S and XRS trim levels are a navigation system that's more affordable to fit the Matrix market and a JBL seven-speaker audio system with a six-disc CD changer, although unfortunately you cannot get both together. All-wheel-drive is available, but only on the S model and only with the 2.4-liter engine and four-speed automatic. Optionally available are 16-inch aluminum wheels for the base model and 17-inchers for the S trim, fitted with either touring or high-performance all-season tires.
UNDER THE HOOD
Standard on the 2010 Toyota Matrix is a 1.8-liter, 132-horsepower four-cylinder engine, which is available with either a five-speed manual or a four-speed automatic transmission. The S and XRS models have a 2.4-liter, 158-horsepower, four-cylinder engine with either a five-speed automatic or a five-speed manual transmission. The 2.4-liter engine employs variable timing on both exhaust and intake valves to produce both responsive acceleration and good fuel economy. All-wheel drive is available only with the S trim level with the automatic transmission. In normal operation, the AWD system sends all the power to the front wheels, but when slip is detected the electronically-controlled center differential diverts up to 45 percent of the torque to the rear. Base and non-AWD S models have a beam rear axle, while the XRS and AWD versions have independent rear suspension.
1.8-liter in-line 4
132 horsepower @ 6000 rpm
128 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4400 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 26/32 (manual), 25/31 (automatic)
2.4-liter in-line 4
158 horsepower @ 6000 rpm
162 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 21/28 (manual), 21/29 (5-speed automatic), 20/26 (4-speed automatic, AWD)
The 2010 Toyota Matrix Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) starts at just over $17,000 when equipped with a five-speed manual. Opting for the S trim with AWD brings the price closer to $21,500, while a fully-loaded XRS with navigation and moonroof tops out just over $25,000. To find out what consumers are really paying for this vehicle in your area, check the New Car Blue Book Value before you begin negotiations. Previous Matrix models held their value extremely well, and the 2010 version should be no exception. Expect the Matrix to hold a resale value higher than the Chrysler PT Cruiser and Pontiac Vibe, about the same as the Mazda MAZDA3 and just below the Honda Civic.